From talk of widespread devolution and the recognition of skills in socio-economic development, the ‘levelling up’ white paper offered an optimistic view on opportunities development but questions remain on the delivery.
It’s clear that skills are being prioritised by the government, with new initiatives through bootcamps and Multiply as well as the boost to traineeships a welcomed move. But with prior pledges of investment directed towards ‘skills for the future’, there is a lack of wider action in the key functional skills of literacy, numeracy and essential digital skills. While ‘levelling up’ offers commitment to bettering functional skills development, without increased funding the true attainability of these ambitions are questionable.
The recognition of skills development on economic potential is positive, offering individual opportunity for developing a ‘sustainable living’ and providing better employment prospects. But positivity won’t fulfil national skills deficiencies or labour shortages and with the growing socio-economic divide, made worse by two years of job losses and business closure alongside a desperate shortfall of care workers throughout the country, it’s time for real investment to be made into adult learning.
The move to devolution and greater local control is encouraging, offering opportunity for more suitable upskilling opportunities within the local area but the proposition poses a risk of creating a ‘postcode lottery’ and misses the mark on national employer support entirely. Some level of coherence and national entitlement will be required and it seems the Department of Education are unwilling to create an overarching skills strategy – instead opting for a range of initiatives.
With still no reform to skills funding, the burden of a funding system that channels through the institution rather than the individual and employer remains. Closing national gaps in socio-economic opportunity requires placing upskilling opportunity into the hands of the individual through individual learning accounts and this should be prioritised.
Talks on a new digital education service is positive and online ITP’s like The Skills Network, who offer high quality digital learning experiences for over 35,000 learns across the globe, know better than most the opportunity and accessibility that digital learning offers to education and skills development. This is a step in the right direction but more is needed to truly tackle the opportunity divide and skills shortages throughout the county.